Brasilia: A congressional committee in Brazil recommended impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff,
setting the stage for a crucial vote in the Lower House to decide whether she should face trial.
The committee voted 38 to 27 in favor of Rousseff's ouster. Both sides yelled slogans and waved placards as the vote was completed after hours of bad-tempered debate.
The decision was non-binding. However, it was a symbolically important as a preview of the decisive battle in the full Lower Chamber expected Sunday or the following Monday.
In closing comments, Paulo Abi-Ackel, from the Opposition PSDB party, called for impeachment of a president he branded "inept, incapable, isolated." But Henrique Fontana, from Rousseff's Workers' Party, urged a vote "against the coup."
In the Chamber of Deputies, a two-thirds majority would send Rousseff's case to the Senate, which would then have the power to put her on trial and ultimately drive her from office. Anything less would torpedo the procedure.
Rousseff, accused of fiddling accounts to mask the dire state of the government budget during her 2014 re-election, is fighting desperately to ensure support.
The latest survey of the 513 deputies in the Lower House by Estadao daily yesterday showed 298 in favor, still short of the 342 needed to carry the motion. The count showed 119 opposing impeachment, with 172 required to impose a defeat. That left the result in the hands of the 96 deputies still undecided or not stating a position.
With Latin America's biggest country gripped by recession, political paralysis and a vast corruption scandal, the stakes are huge and passions on both sides intense.
A barricade was erected along the Esplanade of Ministries in the capital Brasilia to separate opposing protesters that police expect could number as many as 300,000 during the lower house vote.
More than 4,000 police and firefighters will be on duty, G1 news site reported, and security yesterday was stepped up at Congress, with heavy restrictions on access to the building.